NOTHING’S THE SAME — Most wooden sailing ships have cruised into the sunset, but the photo below shows one when they still provided a principle means of transport. This vessel was docked at a railroad wharf in downtown Jax during the 1880s. What structures would stand in this spot 120 years later? The Omni Hotel and the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts!
The front lawn in the foreground probably belonged to the Grand National Hotel. This large structure rose four stories, not counting its copula-topped tower. It was situated just west of today’s Sun Bank Building, or across from the front doors of the BellSouth Building. This site would later include a McCrory’s five & dime store. (About 35 years ago, by the way, a Sears department store operated where the Omni is now.)
In the background, Hendrick’s Point juts into the St. Johns River. Fast forward 120 years and you would see the tall Prudential Building, Baptist Medical Center, and Wolfson Children’s Hospital, as well the eastern end of the Fuller Warren Bridge.
LOG JAMS — Looking like giant Lincoln logs, the timber in the water had been floated down the St. Johns to Jacksonville. The logs came from lumbering ventures in the vicinity of Palatka, the present-day Ocala National Forest, and other locales. Following their arrival in Jax, the logs were kept in water-filled holding pens along the riverbanks, particularly in the area of today’s Times-Union headquarters. After they were fished out, the logs would be turned into lumber and other products in Jacksonville’s factories. Frequently the wood would also be sent elsewhere, particularly up north, for use in other items.
A few years ago, a local entrepreneur wanted to pinpoint the spots of the old holding pens. Some of the cypress logs, he said, had probably sunk to the bottom of the St. Johns, and they would have been preserved. He hoped to raise them and make a small fortune from their sale.
~written by Glenn Emery